Gran gives evidence in fatal crash case

Ann Diggles, 81, of Dalehead Avenue, Leyland, leaves Preston Crown Court. Mrs Diggles is charged with death by dangerous driving.
Ann Diggles, 81, of Dalehead Avenue, Leyland, leaves Preston Crown Court. Mrs Diggles is charged with death by dangerous driving.

A great-grandmother loved her car so much she wanted to drive it again despite claiming it “took off” when she gently pressed on the accelerator and left her unable to avoid a fatal collision, a jury has heard.

The Crown say Ann Diggles, 82, simply mistakenly pressed the accelerator pedal of her Nissan Qashqai instead of the brake when she knocked down and killed 53-year-old Julie Dean outside a charity shop in Leyland in July 2014.

But lawyers for the retired nurse say a malfunction in the automatic car’s electronic throttle due to an undercharged battery led to the vehicle surging forward of its own accord in an “uncommanded acceleration”.

On Thursday, Preston Crown Court was told the defendant, a regular churchgoer, wanted the damaged Qashqai back from the garage before she was told it was written-off by insurers.

Giving evidence, Diggles explained: “Well, I was not putting any blame on the vehicle for the accident.

“I began to realise that it was something that just did not happen in a Nissan car. I previously never had problems with Nissan cars.

“Unfortunately, it happened to me when I was in a difficult situation and it caused someone to lose their life.”

She said a number of people, some she knew, approached her after the crash to say they had had similar experiences in their vehicles but luckily without serious consequences.

The court heard that Diggles had driven Nissan automatic vehicles for more than 20 years and bought the Qashqai involved in the collision, which she said was “totally reliable”, from new in 2007.

She said: “I loved the car. It was an ideal height for me to get in and out of and it was very comfortable, the most comfortable car I have ever had.”

Richard Archer, prosecuting, said that on her version of events the vehicle had “failed in the most serious and devastating way” and asked her: “In those circumstances, if this car has run away with itself, why on Earth would you ever want it back?”

Diggles replied: “It became quite clear to me that this had happened to several other people, not in Nissan cars ... I stuck with the car that was suitable for me. I didn’t think it had anything to do with a Nissan car.”

Asked why she wanted to drive again in any car, she said she needed independence for herself and her husband, who was no longer able to drive. She told the court she was also unable to walk very far.

She added: “If it did ever happen to me again I would immediately know what was happening and immediately know what to do. I would press the stop button. That car did not have that button. You don’t need your foot on the brake to stop it.”

She told the court that she had pressed on her brake after the surge forward but it had no effect.

Mr Archer suggested to her: “You cannot come to terms with the fact that after a lengthy driving career you made such a fundamental mistake.”

The defendant said: “If I thought I could have made this mistake I would have said so and not put myself through nearly three years of waiting.”

Diggles, of Dalehead Road, Leyland, denies causing death by dangerous driving or careless driving.